Children at a birthday party with Nonie's Ark Animal Encounters might get to meet Jimmy, Jack, or Jill—but despite their deceptively human names, these guests are actually exotic animals. A naturalist and wildlife educator with a background in zoo-animal technology, Nonie encourages kids touch and sometimes hold live animals such as snakes, toads, chinchillas, and sugar gliders during hands-on interactive and educational presentations. Nonie has adopted and cared for each of these creatures, many of which were formerly unwanted pets. At some parties, Nonie also leads children in animal role-playing games like eating dirt cake and worms and doles out goodies such as safari helmets and outdoor toys.
Just off the beach, a man floats over the water, suspended in the air by streams of water jetting from his hands and feet as though he were testing an Iron Man–inspired apparatus. This back-mounted pack—called a Flyboard—works through a propulsive system that continually intakes and rapidly expels water, pushing the rider into the air or wherever he or she directs it to fly. The Flyboard, along with aqua trikes, WaveRunners, pontoon boats, kayaks, and standup paddleboards, comprise the unique rental fleet of Power Up Watersports. With these advanced watercrafts, Power Up’s team hopes to evolve Destin’s watersports scene, which includes plans to train the area’s dolphins to serve drinks.
"It really is a BMXers heaven," boasts Bill Madden, founder of Emerald Coast Dirt and Vert. And he should know—he was a #1 NPSA Pro BMX biker and is an expert at building tracks and jumps. His passion helped shape the center's impressive dirt jumps and USA BMX–sanctioned track, which hosts weekly races. He also oversaw the construction of a 9,000-square-foot skate park, which encompasses a street course, challenging ramps, and extra-challenging loop-de-loops. The facility is constantly maintained for safety, and parents are always welcome to watch the action from provided chairs.
Miller Cellars LLC's chief vintner and CEO Lynn Miller concocted her first batch of homemade wine in 2008, when she found a recipe for dandelion wine in Southern Living magazine. Ever since, she's worked tirelessly to improve her skills, and today, she shares them during hands-on classes that teach students how to make batches of wine and alcohol from scratch. Her business also provides yearly memberships, which grant aspiring vintners access to unlimited classes and discounted supplies.
The Emerald Cork’s artists help groups to unleash their creativity and socialize in a relaxed, fun environment. They provide step-by-step guidance and advice on techniques such as brush selection and color blending, and at the end of class, each guest leaves with their own work of art. Guests can bring along nonalcoholic beverages and snacks to enjoy while painting.
Nimble sages with plenteous stockpiles of chi guide students of all skill levels down the path of mindfulness in classes that seek to promote inner health and self-actualization. The experienced clan of instructors combines forces to lead a schedule of calming, focused classes designed to accommodate all skill levels. Beginners can cut their tensile teeth in Chill classes that prop chakras up on sturdy tripods and review basic postures at an approachable pace. The Activate classes further develop strength and flexibility, while one- or two-hour Yoga Heat sessions spark a purgative inferno with athletic explorations of deep asanas and breathing techniques. A serene, communal studio space helps reduce the effects of stress and assists in cleansing the impurities garnered in spiritual mud-wrestling matches.